Carlos Calvo Rodriguez of Shangri-La on the future of spa training

How will spa staff training change from now on? Spa Executive spoke with Shangri-La’s Assistant Vice President of Spa Training, Carlos Calvo Rodriguez, to find out.

As we come out of lockdown, spas are putting new protocols into place and rethinking traditional ways of doing things. This means retraining team members as they are welcomed back to work, and perhaps also changing the way that training is done.

Carlos Calvo Rodriguez is the Assistant Vice President of Spa Training at Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts. Globally, he oversees 82 spas and hundreds of team members. We talked with him about how Shangri-La is changing their operating procedures and training methods going forward. Here’s what he had to say: 

Carlos Calvo RodriguezHow are you changing the way that you will be training your teams?

My job is to go into all the different spas and do onsite training but I haven’t travelled since January. So, we have been focusing on online training and creating content. At Shangri-La we have a website and learning management system called Shangri-La Academy where we do our online training. We have been working with that and creating new content and courses.

When you talk about training in spa, the idea of online training seems strange, because you need to touch and be in contact with the person. But we had to change the way we do things, and we now have a weekly series of online trainings that include videos and webinars. We wanted to keep our therapists engaged before they came back to work.

How has that been working?

Well, at first, I realized they were falling asleep and were not really paying attention. So, I had to figure out how to keep them engaged. Now, I have exercises during the training. We stand up, we do some stretching exercises. And after the online training, they have to go to our Academy website and finish our course. It’s going well.

What has changed about your standard operating procedures?

Many things. For example, as a greeting we used to offer a handshake and now we do a bow, and then we offer the guest a warm towel with hand sanitizer. So, the person can feel like they’re getting sanitized, but it’s also still a relaxing spa experience. We now ask the guests to shower in the spa before treatment. No matter what, they have to shower, and then they get their treatments with fresh bathrobes and towels. This means they have to come earlier. Cleaning procedures have, of course, also changed. We don’t provide any more open food or beverages. In the past, we would have cookies or fruit, and that is completely gone.

Are your team members afraid?

Everyone is afraid. What we’re trying to do is clearly explain the safety measures and disinfection protocols – they will wear the mask and have hand sanitizer in the room, for example. We have also explained to them that all the measures  are posted on the website and will be enforced with the guests. And we have extended the post treatment cleanup time, so the therapists have more time to really disinfect the face cradle, which is the most exposed part of the massage table. They seem to be feeling less afraid knowing these things.

Something that people have been talking about is being very demonstrative about cleaning and doing it in a theatrical way in front of the guest. Is this something you’re training your staff to do?

Yes. We need to make sure that the guests see all of these cleaning procedures. In the past, everything was expected to be very quiet and behind the scenes in the spa. Now, I am telling them, “I need you to first tell the guest that you’re going to wash your hands, and then I want you to make noise as you’re doing it. I want them to hear you washing your hands. And when they come into the treatment room, we’re going to show and tell that we are disinfecting the face cradle one more time. You grab a wipe and they see you cleaning the cradle.” I think the times of quietness and discreet moments are a little bit gone for a while.

Do you see Shangri-La continuing online training for the foreseeable future?

We will be moving to a more hybrid situation. We will have all the content in the Academy, in the online system, and instead of traveling 90% of the time, it will be probably around 60% of the time. Because you can have all the theory and the video component, but you still need in-person, hands-on workshops. We need to have contact and to see the therapist doing the procedures so we can give  feedback in the moment. It’s never going to be 100% online training.


Looking for more resources on reopening your spa? Watch Book4Time’s webinar on how spas will reopen.